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Hired gunman gets life in prison for grocer's slaying
By Times staff writers
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 25, 2000
TAMPA -- Walter Ruiz was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday for acting as the hired gunman in the 1995 murder of a Drew Park grocer. Four years ago, Ruiz, 41, was sentenced to death for kidnapping, robbing and shooting Rolando Landrian, but he won a new trial last year after the Florida Supreme Court found prosecutors had committed "egregious and inexcusable prosecutorial misconduct." Jurors convicted Ruiz of first-degree murder again this week, but this time, they recommended that he serve life in prison. Circuit Judge J. Rogers Padgett imposed that sentence immediately.
Pilot, passenger remain in hospital after crash
TARPON SPRINGS -- Mike Dawson, the pilot i njure d in the crash of his small plane Tuesday, remained in serious condition at Tampa General Hospital on Wednesday. Passenger Eric Stallworth, 40, of Holiday was in stable condition at Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital in Tarpon Springs. The men were injured when Dawson's plane lost power and crashed into a marshy area of the Anclote River on Tuesday afternoon. Police said Stallworth suffered two cracked vertebrae. Dawson had to be cut from the plane, and he complained to rescuers that his lower back hurt and his legs were numb.
Court reduces charge in boyfriend's slaying
A woman convicted in 1998 of first-degree murder for shooting her boyfriend in the head had the charge lowered Wednesday to second-degree murder, which could allow her to avoid a life sentence. The 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled that the state failed to show that Marie Elena Rivera, 29, committed the murder in a premeditated fashion, which was a requirement in this case for a first-degree murder conviction.Rivera contended an intruder broke into the Gibsonton mobile home she shared with Ralph Deeter, 50, on Nov. 28, 1997, and shot him as he slept. A second-degree murder charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, but Rivera and her attorney can argue for a shorter term.
Sheriff's Office sued over Gasparilla pepper spray
TAMPA -- Nine people who say they were pepper-sprayed during this year's Gasparilla parade on Bayshore Boulevard filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and the deputy who they said sprayed them. In the lawsuit, nine adults and children claim they were subjected to excessive force and were deprived of their civil rights, after sheriff's Deputy Christine Fleet sprayed them during the parade Feb. 5. Another deputy had permitted the adults' children to stand in front of a crowd barrier, the lawsuit states. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for physical and emotional harm in excess of $75,000. An internal investigation by the Sheriff's Office concluded that Fleet had not violated any departmental policies.
Hillsborough judge to join federal bench
WASHINGTON -- The Senate Wednesday unanimously confirmed James D. Whittemore, a circuit judge from Hillsborough County, to serve as a judge on the federal bench in the Middle District of Florida. Whittemore, 47, has been a judge in the 13th Circuit in Hillsborough County since 1990. Whittemore, of Temple Terrace, graduated from the University of Florida in 1974 and received his law degree from Stetson University in 1977. He will replace retiring judge Terrell Hodges on the Middle District bench.
Homeless man accused of raping woman
ST. PETERSBURG -- A 59-year-old homeless man is accused of raping a woman at knifepoint early Monday near Williams Park.
Edgar W. Marchen was arrested Wednesday on a charge of sexual battery. Police gave the following account of what happened:
Late Sunday night, the woman went to a Williams Park bus stop and sat on a bench. Marchen walked up and started talking to her. The woman said she was tired and wanted to lie down somewhere. Marchen said he knew a place, and led her into the 400 block of Second Avenue N.
Police say Marchen pulled a box-cutter knife, punched the woman's face, cut her, forced her into some bushes and raped her. She later identified him from a lineup of photographs.
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